When the coronavirus stampeded through New York City in March, I was so grateful that our rental apartment had room for our two sons, both recent college grads. We could be our own pod, be devoid of contact with others, and cling together as if on a life raft as the virus swept across the nation.
And we were hardly alone. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2.7 million adults moved in with their parents or grandparents in March and April, the majority between 18 and 25 years old.
Granted, boomerang kids moving back home are nothing new, but COVID-19 has created a whole new breed: young adults who are not just living with their parents, but also in each others’ faces 24/7. And since no one knows how long this virus will last, there’s no end in sight.
And so, as we stretch into the seventh month of co-living, I’m wondering: Is this “pause” semipermanent? How long will my kids be home, anyway?
The new breed of boomerang kids
To be truthful, our family had already been doing some intergenerational co-habitation before the pandemic took hold. Our older kid, who was a couple of years out of university, had moved home while apartment hunting in our neighborhood. He was about to sign a lease on his own little place when the pandemic hit.
“What’s the point of having my own place,” he asked, “when I can’t even have friends over for a drink?”
He decided to wait out COVID-19 and then start combing apartment websites again.
Our younger one, with his freshly minted diploma, had moved back home after graduating and had been job hunting and apartment hunting with roommates simultaneously, assuming he’d have a steady paycheck and his own place with his pals soon. Those plans also got sidelined by the virus, as most of his friends also headed home to their parents.
At the time, the mandate in the city was to stay indoors and emerge only when absolutely necessary. We entered a strange land of sharing a home with two grown sons nonstop. No heading off to work in the morning, none of their weekends spent at their girlfriends’. Just full-time, full-tilt togetherness.
Here’s what I’ve learned.
Boomerang kids take up a lot more square footage than when they were little
Our family of four used to fit a lot differently in spaces than we do now. Having two “kids” over 6 feet tall means that square footage gets soaked up in new ways. Clustering around the coffee table for cheese and crackers? Tight. Having them pile in as my husband and I watch “Seinfeld” reruns in bed? No way.
I am now officially envious of those people who live in McMansions.
Your grown kids’ eating (and drinking) habits may shock you
Living together, combined with our open kitchen, has exposed my adult children’s eating habits. Since I spend most of my days working at the dining table, I register the flow of family members back and forth as they seek sustenance, and it’s been eye-opening to say the least. Who knew that my sons still eat like teenagers, but drink like men?
In and out they go, chomping on cookies, nuts, crackers, popcorn, and anything else they could get their mitts on. And come evening? Wow. The beer. The empties.
Adult kids embarrass their parents during Zoom meetings, too
Since my husband and I are both working remotely—and in regular Zoom calls—having my grown sons at home is not only a sight for me to behold daily, but quite an eyeful for my co-workers, too. They’ve seen one son saunter behind me, oblivious to my camera, in boxer shorts and nothing else. And since muting isn’t always an option, clients have also been treated to the near-constant machine gun fire of Call of Duty, electric guitar versions of Bob Dylan’s oeuvre, and even my sons bickering over who used up the toilet paper.
My co-workers’ cameos of toddlers showing off their Lego creations seem cute by comparison.
Their laundry/housekeeping skills are still less than stellar
All that nagging I did in the past about proper laundry technique (don’t let it pile up, separate whites and brights, fold items ASAP after drying)? Well, I should have found a better use for that time and energy, because clearly no one was listening.
I often revert to treating my adult sons like kids
Having our sons back home caused me to drift back to some old motherly habits that reigned supreme when they were young. For instance, I’ve developed a calendar of who loads/unloads the dishwasher. I’ve tried to stick my nose in my sons’ lives by casually inquiring about comments I’ve overheard them make during calls with friends. I’ve even taken to intervening if I hear my sons squabbling.
Yes, they are clearly old enough to run their own lives and fight their own battles. Still, that dishwasher duty does seem to need enforcement, which I’m happy to provide.
We argue less because there’s less to argue about
On the upside, the pandemic eliminates a lot of conflict because (aside from who’s on dishwashing duty) there’s so little to fight about. After all, no one is going anywhere or seeing anyone, which eliminates the potential for high school–style arguments about staying out too late. There are no Tinder dates and potentially awkward sleepovers happening when everyone is a potential virus vector.
Quarantine has helped us comfort them during this strange time
No matter how big your place, there’s no escaping the pervasive sadness of having a young adult live through this pandemic.
My younger son, the one who’s looking for work, says maybe he should head north, buy a few acres, and live off the land. His friends use the phrase “commune” and “off the grid” to describe their real estate dreams. It’s so different from when I was young, and longed for nothing more than to live it up in New York City.
But the good thing is, my husband and I have been close by, offering our grown sons what support we can. We tell our kids that nothing is forever, remind them of how their grandparents lived through wartime. If this pandemic hadn’t happened, squeezing us together, that sharing of feelings and support for one another may not have transpired.
I will miss that closeness whenever this pandemic ends—and it will.
It’s time to find the right shower head for you. (Pixabay/)
Finding the ideal shower head for your daily cleansing routine can be quite a challenge. There are so many styles and types available, not to mention a wide range of brands to choose from. You likely have your own unique desires when it comes to what defines the perfect shower. From water pressure to temperature, your preferences are yours alone. These great shower heads offer many options to help you choose the right shower heads to meet your needs.
Available in three finishes, you’ll love the multiple spray selections, the easy installation and the Rub-Clean jets for easy cleaning. (AquaDance/)
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Accented with a hard-to-find matte black finish, this system offers two ways to take a shower. (Gabrylly/)
Enjoy ample pressure in your shower even if your water pressure is low with this showerhead duo by GABRYLLY. The pressure-balancing valve cartridge allows you to maintain level water pressure throughout your shower, even when switching between the two shower heads. There are three settings for the 8″ rain shower head: rain shower, full spray massage and fast massage. With its good looks and high functionality, this is the total package.
If you’re looking for a simple, modern and efficient system, you’ll appreciate the design and power of this offering. (Speakman/)
For people concerned about energy efficiency and water conservation, this shower head delivers while offering pressure flows in your choice of intense pressure, gentle rain, and full flood options. Its head features self-cleaning plungers and is resistant to hard-water build-up for low maintenance ease of use. If you’re wanting a new look in your shower, you’ll love the eight finishes to choose from. This Speakman shower head blends a classical shower head appearance with modern functionality for an incredible shower experience.
If you’re tall, this is for you. This modern, high pressure system has an adjustable extension piece that allows you to extend the height and angle for a customizable experience. (MeSun/)
From easy, no tools required installation to the oversized, 12-inch square rainfall shower head itself, this shower head offers full-body coverage that is synonymous with luxury showers everywhere. Advanced technology allows you to enjoy a high-pressure shower experience from start to finish regardless of your personal water pressure situation. No more bending down with the adjustable 11-inch extension arm. With three finishes to choose from, this is the consistent and powerful shower head you’ve been looking for.
Extra length and multiple power settings give you all the options you need. (Delta/)
Control and flexibility are what make this hand held shower head so versatile.The hose has a 72 inch reach so not only do you get a great shower, it’s easy to help your loved ones shower and wash your pets. With seven spray options, you can go from a full body spray to pause while you shave (or brush your teeth). There’s even a water-conserving option to help save the planet. The Delta hand-held shower head also offers convenient cleaning, thanks to the touch-clean spray holes that allow you to wipe away lime and calcium build-up with ease. Choose between a chrome or white finish and your ready for a great shower experience.
Owning a beachfront home is a seductive dream for many Americans. Dramatic or serene ocean views right outside your living room! Communities offering up a relaxed or high-energy way of life—your pick! Heaping, fresh seafood platters and frosty margaritas by the water. Hey, what’s not to love?
Plenty, in fact. Sorry to intrude on the fantasy, but living near the water comes with some very real risks: the ongoing threat of destructive storms and regular flooding that can range from costly to catastrophic. And the worst of these dangers seems to be escalating.
In the past two months alone, the nation has been been hit by not one but two major storms: Hurricanes Laura and Sally bringing destruction and death to large swaths of the coastal U.S. And there were five more storm systems moving through the Atlantic Ocean as of Friday—only the second time in history that so many have been tracked at the same time.
This year’s hurricane season has been so intense that all 21 of the Atlantic storm names approved by the World Meteorological Organization for the year have already been used up.
That’s why the team at realtor.com® decided it was time to take the high ground to find which counties in the U.S. have the greatest flood risks. Because while these areas are often rich in natural beauty and other attractions, those considering buying homes in these places should understand how their properties could be affected.
“The landfall of Hurricane Sally on the Alabama coast was just the latest exclamation point in what is turning out to be a record active-storm season in the Atlantic [Ocean],” says Danny Brouillette, a research climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University in State College.
“Climate change [is] causing tropical cyclones to be more slow-moving. … Paired with the increased water content of air as it grows warmer, it’s a recipe for more [storms] that produce extremely prolific rainfall that causes flooding, both at the coast and inland,” says Brouillette. “And increased sea levels due to climate change will tend to worsen flooding from storm surge near the coast.”
Floods are the most common weather-related natural disaster in the U.S., according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory. Despite the increasing risks, homeowners continue to be drawn to homes in some of the most flood-prone areas, such as beach communities on the shore of the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. But folks looking for property inland shouldn’t ignore the risks there either.
“It’s a risk that an inexperienced buyer could easily overlook, says Danielle Hale, chief economist at realtor.com, “such as in a home that is relatively lower-lying than its neighbors, but nowhere near a body of water.”
Just over half of home shoppers would still consider buying a home even if they know it’s in a flood zone, according to a recent realtor.com report on flood risk. But about 40% of those buyers expect a discount on the home price.
To come up with our ranking, our data team combined First Street Foundation’s flood data with realtor.com‘s property data. The team analyzed factors that contribute to flooding, including tides, rain, and storm surge. It also looked at the impact of environmental changes, like sea-level risk, changing precipitation patterns, and warming atmospheric temperatures.
(Realtor.com recently teamed up with the foundation to display the flood risk of every property listed on the site. Listings display a flood factor, ranging from 1 to 10, provided by First Street.)
We selected one county per state with the most major to extreme flood risk and included only the counties with at least 100,000 residents. So what are the areas in the U.S. at greatest risk?
Median county home list price: $280,000* Most flood-prone ZIP code in county: 33948 (Port Charlotte)
Much of Florida is technically in a high flood risk zone. (If we didn’t limit our criteria to just one county per state, Florida would dominate our rankings.) But, it’s also one of the country’s most desirable places to live with its 663 miles of prime beaches.
Charlotte County, in southwestern Florida on the Gulf Coast, attracts a variety of homeowners, including full-time residents and snowbirds who flock there in winter months.
“Even with the flood risk, Southwest Florida offers year-round great weather, more golf courses than any other place in the U.S., and some of the top-rated beaches in the country,” says Violetta Zalevskiy, a real estate agent with Keller Williams in the area.
You pay a price for all that beauty. In 2004, Hurricane Charley devastated the Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda areas, wiping out about half of Charlotte County’s roughly 12,000 homes. The county was hit with flooding and damage again in 2017’s Hurricane Irma, although not nearly as bad.
Properties in Charlotte County are dominated by single-family homes, condos, and villas. A lake-view condo with two bedrooms and two baths is going for $119,900. A brand-new, three-bedroom home with a lanai is listed at $288,000.
Median county home list price: $198,100 Most flood-prone ZIP code in county: 70343 (Bourg)
Terrebonne Parish is known as Louisiana’s “Bayou Country” on the Gulf of Mexico. A little over an hour southwest of New Orleans, the county is home to vast wetlands, lakes, bays, bayous, and canals, along with wildlife preserves, oyster beds, and a rich Cajun culture.
The whole area mostly comprises water and wetlands, with the highest point just 13 feet above sea level. The coastal parish is regularly in the path of major storms, including Katrina in 2005. Most recently, Hurricane Laura last month caused damage and flooding.
Still, residents are attracted by the commercial fishing and the oil and gas industries, and low cost of living. In Houma, the parish seat, there are mostly single-family homes for sale, including this 2,400-square-foot home with a large backyard for $213,000. In Bourg, a little closer to the coast, this 7,000-square-foot home with extra storage and workshop spaces is going for $327,000.
Median county home list price: $429,100 Most flood-prone ZIP code in county: 29928 (Hilton Head Island)
Hilton Head Island, located in Beaufort County, is renowned for its sandy beaches, resorts, multitude of golf courses, and subtropical heat. It has a booming tourism industry that inspires many visitors to invest in vacation homes.
The downside: Beaufort County is located in the the state’s Lowcountry. Every few years, a hurricane makes landfall along this part of the coast, often causing damage from storm surges. And the low-lying landscape makes the county frequently vulnerable to floods. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew caused more than $57 million in damages.
Nonetheless, homes in Hilton Head Island have a median list price of $495,000. But deals can be found: This furnished, newly renovated condo located in a resort with a golf course and lagoon views is listed at $249,900.
Median county home list price: $305,100 Most flood-prone ZIP code in county: 77554 (Galveston Island)
Located in southeastern Texas along the Gulf Coast, Galveston County often takes the brunt when a major storm hits. The area was devastated in 1900 by the deadliest hurricane in American history, which left 6,000 people dead. More recently, the city saw flooding from Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
Still, Galveston is a “dreamy” place to live with friendly people, beaches, a great nightlife, and beautiful weather, says Johell Aponte, property specialist with Move On House Buyers.
“Homes are normally found raised up on stilts to avoid pitfalls of flooding, and generally don’t have basements,” he says.
But before buying a home in the Galveston area, do your research, says local agent Kristina Morales.
“Buyers should be looking at flood maps and really understand which properties are at the greatest risk of flooding,” she says. “They need to know the elevations of the homes they’re considering.”
Those interested in real estate in Galveston can find a variety of homes, including condos, townhouses, and single-family homes. This spacious Victorian-style home with four bedrooms and two bathrooms is listed at $399,000.
Jackson County’s landscape is mostly marshlands and bayous, but it’s home to several beaches, too, and boasts a bustling tourism industry. Beach towns like Ocean Springs and Pascagoula are popular with visitors and residents, and nearby Biloxi draws crowds with its large casino resorts.
A variety of affordable homes is available in Jackson County. In Pascagoula, buyers can find a brand-new home with three bedrooms and two bathrooms clocking in at just over 1,500 square feet for $149,900.
In 2016, West Virginia saw one of its worst floods in its history, after about 10 inches of rain fell within 24 hours. The flood caused extensive damage and left more than 20 people dead in the state, including six in Kanawha County. The National Weather Service referred to it as a “one in a thousand year event.”
In spite of the flood risk, residents enjoy the suburban vibe of Charleston and its very low cost of living. The county offers the lowest-priced homes on our list and that are less than half of the national median list price of $350,000 in August, according to realtor.com data. A three-bedroom, 2,300-square-foot home with a large, screened porch is going for $199,900.
Median county home list price: $350,100 Most flood-prone ZIP code in county: 95365 (Planada)
Merced County is more than 90 minutes inland in California’s northern San Joaquin Valley. Heavy rainfall in the county’s namesake Merced River often causes dangerous overflow. One of the area’s worst floods in 2006 hit the Franklin-Beachwood area, forcing the evacuation of residents and leading to a state of emergency declaration.
Earlier this year, the California Department of Water Resources awarded Merced County a $9.7 million grant to help reduce flooding. The money will go toward a new 300-acre flood detention basin to add an extra layer of protection.
Single-family homes make up the bulk of available properties in the city of Merced, about two hours southeast of Silicon Valley. This 2,000-square-foot, four-bedroom with a large back patio is going for $343,000.
Median county home list price: $342,000 Most flood-prone ZIP code in county: 31411 (Savannah)
Known for its historic architecture and Southern charm, Savannah is the largest city in Chatham County—and the one most at risk of flooding. Hurricanes Matthew in 2016 and Irma in 2017 both hit Savannah, causing evacuations, flooding, and millions of dollars in damage.
Despite the disasters, Savannah’s beauty makes it a popular destination for visitors and home buyers.
“You can have the best of all worlds, with urban living, coastal living, country living,” says Janet Howard, a real estate broker with RealtyONE Group in Savannah. “You can put your toes in the sand and relax listening to the Atlantic Ocean in all her glory.”
Median county home list price: $252,100 Most flood-prone ZIP code in county: 08402 (Margate City)
Coastal flooding is common in Atlantic County, home to the eponymous Atlantic City, NJ. The area has experienced several major storms over the past decade. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy left about 80% of Atlantic City underwater at one point, and the year before, Hurricane Irene caused extensive damage and flooding.
Still, the housing market in Atlantic County has a lot to offer, says local real estate investor Steven Orlowski.
“The area has been through the wringer recently with COVID-19 and for years prior because of the tumult in the casino business, but that is where the opportunity exists,” he says. “We have beaches, boating, and very diverse geography within driving distances of Philadelphia and New York.”
Waterfront properties are a draw for homeowners, but properties located more inland are less of a flood risk, Orlowski says.
Median county home list price: $380,600 Most flood-prone ZIP code in county: 28480 (Wrightsville Beach)
In recent years, North Carolina has become a popular destination for those working in finance and tech as well as baby boomers looking for warmer weather and a lower cost of living without having to move all the way to Florida. New Hanover County, on the coast about an hour and a half north of Myrtle Beach, SC, is particularly popular due to its scenic shorelines.
North Carolina sees an average of 54 inches of rainfall in its coastal areas each year and 16 inches of snowfall in the mountains, so flooding is a big deal for the state.
Areas along the Atlantic coast are also regular targets for hurricanes. New Hanover County recently saw flooding and other damage from Hurricane Isaias last month. That’s why buyers should seek out properties that can hold up better to flooding.
“Look for homes that have flood protection features,” says local real estate expert Michael Dean, co-founder of Pool Research, which provides consumers information about swimming pools. “Look for flood walls, flood-proof doors, and elevated houses.”
* Median home list prices as of Aug. 1 on realtor.com
Americans with mortgages have accumulated nearly $10 trillion in home equity thanks to a decade of rising home prices. Yet millions of them have fallen behind on mortgage payments and risk losing their houses.
It is a potential bonanza for rental-home investors. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, big single-family landlords have raised billions of dollars for homebuying sprees.
Even if there isn’t a surge in repossessed homes to buy cheaply off the courthouse steps—which led to the emergence of Wall Street’s landlords during the foreclosure crisis a decade ago—there is likely to be a lot of forced sales and new renters.
“A lot of people are house-rich but cash-poor,” said Ivy Zelman, chief executive of real-estate consultant Zelman & Associates. “If they bought in the last two or three years, even if they bought five months ago, they have equity.”
Having plenty of home equity but reduced means to keep making payments could prompt many to sell while prices are high and exit homeownership with a cash cushion, Ms. Zelman said.
People behind on their payments aren’t being kicked out of their houses yet because of federal and local restrictions on foreclosure enacted during the pandemic. Many with federally guaranteed mortgages have entered forbearance, which allows them to skip payments for up to a year without penalty and make them up later.
Meanwhile, bidding wars are breaking out for suburban homes hitting the market.
Millennials coming of age have been enticed by historically low mortgage rates. Other house hunters are leaving city centers and apartments, seeking room for home offices and space between them and their neighbors. And then there are investors, a mix of individuals and investment firms that have been buying more than one in every 10 homes sold in the U.S. over the past decade.
The most house-hungry of these investors are the rental companies formed a decade ago to gobble up foreclosed homes by the thousands. They were expanding before the pandemic, wagering on a permanent suburban rental class. The economic distress brought by the lockdown has only made investors more excited about such companies’ prospects.
So far these companies have reported record occupancy, on-time rent collection on par with historical averages and rising rents. Shares of the two largest landlords, Invitation Homes Inc. and American Homes 4 Rent, are up 79% and 59%, respectively, since stocks bottomed on March 23. The S&P 500 is up about 50% during that time.
Investors have bought nearly $900 million of new shares sold by the two largest rental companies since the pandemic began. Other home-rental operations have also sold nearly $6 billion of rent-backed bonds, including three deals presently in the market, according to Akshay Maheshwari of Kroll Bond Rating Agency.
Beyond that, investment firms Blackstone Group Inc., Koch Industries Inc., J.P. Morgan Asset Management and Brookfield Asset Management Inc. have each made nine-figure investments in single-family rental companies eyeing expansion.
American Homes 4 Rent, which owns about 53,000 houses, in May more than doubled the size of a home-building pact with J.P. Morgan Asset Management to $625 million and last month raised more than $400 million in a stock offering.
“We’re endeavoring to deploy that capital as quickly as possible,” Christopher Lau, American Homes 4 Rent’s finance chief, told investors at a virtual conference this week.
Its largest rival, Invitation Homes, hasn’t been building but it has resumed its prepandemic pace of buying about $200 million worth of homes every three months. To fund its expansion, Invitation sold about $500 million worth of new shares in June.
“We could have, quite frankly, raised a whole lot more,” Chief Executive Dallas Tanner said last week at an industry conference.
Invitation Homes said in a presentation to investors this month that it is planning a sale-leaseback program as another channel to add to its 80,000 homes. Invitation Homes executives said the plans are nascent and declined to discuss them in more detail.
Sale-leaseback transactions are common in commercial real estate and involve the owner of a property selling to investors and then renting it from the buyer.
Such arrangements would allow those who face the prospect of losing their homes to cash in on high house prices without having to move, said Jarred Kessler, chief executive of EasyKnock Inc., a startup that he said raised $25 million from venture investors in June and hundreds of millions of debt to launch a sale-leaseback program this month called ReLEASE.
The business line was originally conceived to allow homeowners to start cashing out of their homes when the market was hot or when an expense arose, but not necessarily when they wanted to move. Since starting out in 2016 the New York firm has bought $187 million worth of houses, all of which remain occupied by the sellers. Now EasyKnock has distressed borrowers in mind and is looking toward early next year, when prohibitions on foreclosure are set to expire.
“Once January comes that’s when the carnage will come,” Mr. Kessler said. “We’re just giving people choices that they never had before.”
A rare find sailed to the top of this week’s most popular homes on realtor.com®.
One of just two residential islands in the state of New Jersey is on the market for $1.85 million. For folks searching for seclusion, this private 6-acre property comes with a modern, roomy residence. On and off the market for years, it saw a serious uptick in interest this week.
A scroll through the listing photos of the offering just off the Jersey Shore will have you dreaming of sipping cocktails on the home’s rooftop deck surrounded by spectacular views.
You also clicked on the childhood home of late NBA legend Kobe Bryant. The hoop he used to hone his game still sits in the driveway. Hoops heads also wanted another glimpse of Shaq-a-pulco: The massive Florida mansion owned by Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal recently bounced back onto the market.
Architecture aficionados swooned over a rare Marcel Breuer design in Maine and followers of fashionable real estate went gaga for Tommy and Dee Hilfiger‘s spectacularly renovated estate in Connecticut.
For a look at this week’s 10 most popular properties, simply scroll on down.
Price: $899,900 Why it’s here: Well-maintained and updated since it was built in 1957, this five-bedroom Colonial was the childhood home of the late NBA great Kobe Bryant.
The home is a quick commute to Philadelphia. Lovely landscaping and a circular drive welcome guests to the home, but the hands-down highlight of the property is the basketball hoop where a young Mamba sharpened his game decades ago.
Price: $229,900 Why it’s here: It’s a colorful splash! Green and candy-apple red hues hint at the one-of-a-kind interiors, which are weathered in some places and industrial modern in others—all to gorgeous effect
Unique touches throughout the historic property include a two-bedroom main house, detached studio, and restored barn. The surrounding acreage features a covered patio perfect for soaking in the fresh air.
Price: $249,749 Why it’s here: For a buyer interested in burrowing, we’ve found the place. This three-bedroom residence built in 1986 is mostly buried underground in the side of a hill.
South-facing widows fill the interiors with natural light, and there’s a four-car garage above ground. Recent updates include a new kitchen and renovated bathrooms, which mean this earth-sheltered abode is move-in ready.
Price: $47,500,000 Why it’s here: Built in 1939 and reimagined for Tommy and Dee Hilfiger, this incredible mansion is built on the area’s highest point. The stylish residence offers views from Long Island Sound to Manhattan.
The six-bedroom main residence is outfitted with award-winning design and decor. The 22.5-acre estate also boasts a pool, tennis court, guest cottage, immaculate gardens, outdoor living spaces, and a greenhouse.
Price: $179,900 Why it’s here: Sitting on a half-acre, this spacious Queen Anne Victorian was built in 1900 and has retained many of its original features. Vintage highlights include wood carvings, leaded-glass windows, pocket doors, and stained glass.
The six-bedroom home includes a full attic, full basement, and rear deck. For guests or tenants, there’s an in-law suite with kitchenette. According to the listing, local zoning allows for the property to be used as a residence, office, short-term rental, or day care.
Price: $19,500,000 Why it’s here: After bouncing on and off the market for years, the 4-acre estate owned by Shaquille O’Neal is back on the market at a nearly $10 million discount off its original asking price.
The massive 31,000-square-foot mansion has 700 feet of lake frontage and is lovingly called Shaq-a-pulco thanks to its tropical feel. The XXL-size property includes an indoor basketball court, lakefront office, and pool with rock waterfall.
Price: $275,000 Why it’s here: The photo below says it all. This nondescript four-bedroom house has one extremely specific, attention-grabbing feature: a hot tub plopped right next to the dining area!
The listing describes the area as a sunroom, but the table and proximity to the kitchen suggest otherwise. If a kitchen-adjacent hot tub jibes with your fantasy, there’s plenty else to adore about the house, including custom closets, custom tile, and a finished basement.
Price: $1,149,000 Why it’s here: This architectural masterpiece was designed by Marcel Breuer and built in 1949 for the Potter family. The glass and stone home sits on a fieldstone foundation and is surrounded by mature trees for a stylish and private retreat.
Price: $1,849,900 Why it’s here: If you can stand a little hyperbole, the listing notes this private island on the bay side of the Jersey Shore is “the most unique property in the entire state.” But once you take a gander, perhaps those words won’t seem like an overstatement.
The 6-acre island is accessible by boat and comes with a four-bedroom home. Built in 2007 with 2,200 square feet of deck surrounding the interiors, the home features a rooftop deck with water views all around.
For the first time in decades, a waterfront estate in Southampton, NY, known as “Ocean Dream” has washed onto the market. The 80-year-old abode is now available for $49 million, and ranks as this week’s most expensive new listing on realtor.com®.
The owners, a couple who fell for each other, and then this Hamptons home, purchased the place back in the late 1990s, according to the website 27east.com.
It had been owned by Anne Ford, the daughter of Henry Ford, before being sold to George and Patty Kraus in January 1998 for $5.5 million. Given the location, the couple considered the price “the last bargain on the East End.”
A bargain no more, the home with a “sterling provenance” sits on a private drive off exclusive Gin Lane.
Built in 1940, the 7,500-square-foot, shingled home is wrapped with porches and decks on the first and second floors, allowing for indoor-outdoor living and entertaining. A path leads to the beach, and French doors open out to the pool.
The couple reportedly overhauled the place after they bought it, tapping William Sclight, a well-known Hamptons architect based in Water Mill, NY, for the job. That was decades ago, and a buyer will probably plan to make a few updates to the interior.
Watch: You Must Run Your Eyes Over This Undulating Masterpiece
Guests enter into a front foyer with a view straight through to the ocean-side covered deck. The layout incorporates nine bedrooms, nine full bathrooms, and three partial baths.
Other key spaces include a living room, media room, sunroom, formal dining room, butler’s pantry, and dine-in kitchen with morning room. Several French doors open to the decks overlooking the pool.
On the second floor, you’ll find the master suite with multiple dressing rooms and access to the ocean-view deck. Additional spaces include a third-floor family room, office, a gym, staff quarters, three-car garage, and connecting poolhouse.
The listing calls the home “well-loved and maintained for generations,” and a “rare opportunity to own one of Southampton’s finest oceanfront estates.”
Set on 3.7 acres, the home offers private access to the beach, manicured landscaping, a grass tennis court, and a putting green. Shopping and restaurants are a short distance away.
Harald Grant with Sotheby’s International Realty-Southampton Brokerage holds the listing.
One of the few bright spots for home buyers and owners in 2020—a year marred by a pandemic, economic recession, social unrest, wildfires, hurricanes, and a highly polarized presidential election—has been rock-bottom mortgage interest rates.
Mortgage rates have been tumbling since COVID-19 disrupted the nation’s economy, achieving what many experts had believed was impossible: They dipped just below 3% in July. Rates have since fallen even further, reaching an all-time low of 2.86% for the average 30-year fixed-rate loan in the week ending Sept. 10, according to Freddie Mac. They ticked up to 2.87% in the week ending Sept. 17.
Those lower rates have allowed buyers to stretch their budgets at a time when home prices are on the rise. Homeowners who refinance their existing loans can potentially shave $100—or more—off their monthly mortgage payments, saving tens of thousands of dollars over the life of their loans. (The exact amount depends on the size of the loan and the previous rate.)
Now, many folks are wondering if rates can fall even further—and just how low they might go. The U.S. Federal Reserve pledged on Wednesday not to raise its own short-term interest rates, currently at around 0%, to give the economy a much-needed boost. So could that lead to mortgage rates dropping further?
“That’s the big question. Are rates going to keep falling? Are they going to rise?” says Len Kiefer, Freddie Mac’s deputy chief economist. “The honest answer is, we don’t know. Economists have not had much luck in forecasting” where rates will go.
The problem is, 2020 hasn’t been a typical year. There’s never been a pandemic in our lifetimes, and this recession is driven by a virus, not a housing bubble or oil crisis or other economic trouble. And while mortgage rates are influenced by the direction of the Fed’s short-term interest rates, it’s not uncommon for them to, well, do their own thing.
Watch: A Slow March Uphill for the Economy, and the Real Estate Market
“Technically speaking, mortgage rates could go lower. Theoretically, they could easily drop to around 2%,” says Senior Economist George Ratiu of realtor.com®. “However, for lenders [who set their own rates], the likelihood of rates going much lower is pretty slim. They don’t want to take the risk of a lower rate over the length of a loan.”
That’s what happened in March. Rates fell to around 3.3% in response to the coronavirus-induced upheaval in the financial markets, and homeowners rushed to refinance their existing mortgages. Lenders were so overwhelmed by the surge in business that they raised their rates to temporarily keep new refinances at bay as they scrambled to catch up.
Refinances have since slowed to more manageable levels, and rates have fallen.
Why mortgage rates could fall even further—or not
For buyers, even lower rates could at least somewhat offset home prices, which have jumped just over 11% year over year, according to the latest realtor.com data. Those low rates can bring previously unattainable homes within reach. So it’s understandable that buyers are watching eagerly to see which direction rates will go.
“If we were to see the economy struggle a bit, that might cause rates to decline,” says Kiefer. “If the economy is stronger than we expected, they might rise a little faster.”
So what’s going on? Bear with us here for a brief mortgage finance breakdown.
Rates are determined more by investors than by the Federal Reserve’s own rates. Lenders don’t want to hold onto the mortgage loans they make, as they want to free up capital to make new loans and profit off those. So they bundle up their mortgages and sell these mortgage bonds, aka mortgage-backed securities, on the secondary market to investors.
When the financial markets are all over the place (like this year), investors will often pull money out of stocks and pump it into the relative safety of Treasury and mortgage bonds. These are considered to be safer, long-term investments.
Now, mortgage rates are tied to the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond market. So when the bond market is strong, mortgage rates fall.
And right now the federal government has committed to buying up mortgage securities, to stabilize the market in the face of this economic downturn. That’s led to a surge in demand, which also pushes rates down.
“Investors are still clamoring for mortgage bonds because a weak economy and volatile stock markets make a lot of conservative investors nervous,” says Ratiu. “Bond investors are attracted to mortgage bonds, because the real estate market recovery is stronger than the rest of the economy.”
Kiefer points out rates have typically fallen by about 2 percentage points a decade. In the 2010s, they were around 4%. So they could, potentially, fall further into the low 2% range if they keep up that pattern.
He believes rates might stay where they are, or fall just a little more, into the 2.75% range.
“If you’re in the market for a refinance or a home purchase, rates can move very quickly,” says Kiefer. “The rate [you] see this week could be very different next week. There’s a lot of room for rates to move.”
That means buyers and those seeking to refinance need to have a good grasp of what the numbers mean for them.
“You can wait for a basis point lower, but ultimately you have to weigh the trade-offs given the fast-rising prices,” says Ratiu. “Home prices are rising fast, so waiting for a lower rate is likely to have little benefit.”
Take your home entertainment system to the next level with a sound bar. (VMAI/)
Great sounding speakers tend to add more bulk, and most modern TV models are getting slimmer and sleeker. This means it’s harder for manufacturers to build in excellent sound. But even if you don’t want to spend a lot of money, you can still find a sound bar that will give you more from your viewing experience. If you’re ready to take your TV and movie time to the next level, here are a few of the great sound bars for the TV we recommend.
Music, movies and games will sound incredible with this system. (JBL/)
This sound bar from JBL transforms from just a soundboard into a complete home theater system that offers an excellent music or movie listening experience. It’s equipped with two detachable wireless surround speakers that are battery powered, offering 10 hours of playtime. It also has a 10inch wireless subwoofer and comes with 510W of total system power. Multiple HDMI inputs make it easy to connect to your 4K devices. Featuring Dolby Pro Logic II, DTS and Dolby digital, video games, music, and movies sound incredible. The wireless subwoofer gives you thrilling, rich bass and is flexible and easy to place without the hassles that come with wires.
Eliminate voice delays for good and maximize sound clarity with this setup. (Polk/)
The ultra-slim design of this sound bar for the TV means it won’t take up a lot of space, and it looks great wherever you place it, too. It features Dolby Digital Decoding and voice adjust technology for improved sound clarity and no more voice delays. It’s only two-inches tall, so you can place it in front of the TV and it won’t block any remote sensors, or you can mount it on the wall with ease. With multiple connection possibilities, you can plug into any audio source with optical input, AUX, HDMI, and HDMI ARC. Built-in Bluetooth technology allows you to connect to your favorite streaming apps, such as TuneIn, Spotify, and Pandora.
The Smart Sound feature optimizes your audio for whatever you’re watching. (Samsung/)
This Samsung sound bar stands out because of the Smart Sound feature that optimizes your sound for the content you watch. Whether you’re watching a drama that goes to quiet dialogue or you’re watching a loud concert or event, you’ll get clear sound for the best viewing experience. Bluetooth TV connection allows you to enjoy all your favorite content without the need for cables. The powerful bass lets you feel the beat and action of music, particularly with the addition of the wireless subwoofer. Game mode allows you to optimize your gaming sound so you have the best gaming experience.
A quality mid-range option that features seven different sound modes. (Sony/)
This Sony sound bar comes with a wireless subwoofer as well to optimize your audio, and the 320W output brings your audio content to life with excellent clarity and volume. The included powerful subwoofer gives a rich, deep bass sound, and S-Force Pro virtual surround sound technology mimics the surround sound experience you’d expect in a theater. Equipped with seven different sound modes, you can choose from cinema, news, standard, sports, game, music, and auto sound modes. The voice enhancement feature helps amplify dialogue over background noise so you enjoy greater clarity.
This budget-friendly option offers an immersive experience with multiple input options. (VMAI/)
With this sound bar, you get a far better sound experience than with your TV speakers along. Using the latest in technology, it delivers clear audio and the subwoofer gives you powerful bass for a dynamic audience experience in your home. With Bluetooth 5.0 you get stable connectivity, smooth transmission, and fast transmission speeds, and you’re able to play your favorite tunes anywhere. Featuring four different sound modes – news, 3D, music, and movie – you can enjoy the perfect sound for whatever you’re watching. Multiple input options make setup easy and let you integrate the sound bar with multiple devices.
Resistance bands are a space-saving way to get a good workout. (Unsplash/)
Getting fit at home doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Nor does a home exercise regime have to take up a great amount of space. Resistance bands are the answer you’re looking for. They’re cost-effective tools that enhance your workouts and do not require extensive amounts of storage space, are easily portable, and work with every fitness level. Whenever you’re ready to take your fitness routine to the next level, these great resistance bands are sure to help you get more mileage from your exercise efforts.
These are environmentally-friendly with natural latex material. (Whatafit/)
Up the intensity level of your workout with these brightly colored adjustable bands by Whatafit that come in 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50-pound bands that can be used alone or stacked together for up to a total of 150 pounds. The set comes with five resistance bands, two handles, a door anchor, an ankle strap, a portable travel bag and a workout guide.
Use these while watching television, working in your office and even while traveling. (Letsfit/)
Want a more efficient workout? Try these loop bands to add yet another layer of resistance – especially for workouts targeting your glutes and legs, abdomen, chest, and arms. The Letsfit set comes with five exercise loops offering color-coded resistance levels, a portable carrying bag, and an instruction manual.
These are especially beneficial for people rehabilitating leg, knee and back injuries. (Fit Simplify/)
Thes affordable fitness loop bands are made of 100 percent natural latex. They are free of TPE and offer five levels of resistance training, making them suitable for novices as well as those who are seasoned pros. The Fit Simplify bands offer seamless integration into numerous workout programs, such as yoga, Pilates, physical therapy, and more.
There’s no rolling, bunching, or snapping during your workout routine with these bands. (Te-Rich/)
Enjoy greater comfort in your fitness efforts with this unique fabric fitness band that is thick, wide, and does not slip thanks to the inner grips. The lightweight Te-Rich set includes three bands that offer light, medium, and high resistance and are geared to provide targeted workouts for squat, glutes, and hip training. The bands are easily portable to enable you to take your workout on the go.
The tear-resistant loops of these bands are made of 100 percent natural latex. (INTEY/)
Not only can you use the separate bands to vary your exercise intensity, but the bands can also be combined to create a truly intense workout. This gives you greater flexibility in your fitness routine and allows the bands longer usefulness as you progress to more advanced fitness levels and workout routines. They’re available with varying max weight limits of 35 pounds, 65 pounds, 85 pounds, and 125 pounds.
Real-estate agent Ryan Serhant is standing with a professional film crew on the roof of one of his latest projects, a pricey condominium project on the north end of Central Park, waiting for a small aircraft to spell out the name of the building in the sky above. When the plane finally appears, he jumps into action, hamming it up for the cameras and pointing animatedly at the scrawl overhead, which reads “145 CPN.” For Mr. Serhant, who made his name as one of the stars of the reality television show “Million Dollar Listing New York,” the skywriting stunt, for which he paid around $6,000, is the latest of his outlandish tricks to market high-end listings in New York and across the country.
He’s leaned out of flying helicopters, stood on top of a SUV in the middle of Manhattan traffic, pretended to get carried away by 150 giant balloons and thrown a 1980s-themed party complete with a DeLorean for a listing that had dated décor. It is all in the name of one thing: clicks.
Obviously, Mr. Serhant’s ultimate goal is selling real estate. But building his social media presence is proving to be an effective means to that end—in fact, some of his crazy stunts involve properties he isn’t even representing. Mr. Serhant is one of a rising crop of real-estate agents who are blurring the lines between real-estate marketing and entertainment by creating professional-grade online photo and video content designed to get global attention for their ultraexpensive properties and bolster their personal brands. A far cry from the brokers of yesteryear who relied on pictures in their brokerage office windows to sell real estate, these agents speak real estate’s new language of impressions, conversions, online geo-targeting and digital metrics. They are shelling out tens of thousands of dollars to make themselves and their listings internet famous.
“It’s an attention game. It’s not who has the better postcards, it’s about who can attract the most eyeballs,” Mr. Serhant said. “I can walk into an appointment with a seller and say ‘there are 30,000 active real-estate agents in the city, there’s hundreds and thousands of us all over the world, but I have a level of exposure you can’t buy.’ ”
Mr. Serhant has decided that it’s time to cash in on his name recognition. After more than a decade at the brokerage Nest Seekers International, he is starting his own company, which will be known as “Serhant.” The new firm will have its own film studio, digital-marketing lab and a tech team dedicated to tracking the reach of the brand and its content across the web. Mr. Serhant said he decided to launch his company now because he believes “the traditional real-estate brokerage model is broken.”
“The brokerage company, open houses, and pretty photos don’t sell homes today the way they did 10 and 20 years ago,” he said. “Buyers of high-end real estate, and their children, go to YouTube and social media on their phones to research homes and agents now. I was already doing things differently from everyone else and it has been working incredibly well so I thought why not do it differently and build a firm from the ground up?”
Eddie Shapiro, Nest Seekers International founder and chief executive, noted that Mr. Serhant is not cutting ties with the company entirely. He will close out the business he signed at Nest Seekers, including his listings and new developments. Mr. Shapiro said that the company’s agents are now involved with a new reality real-estate show on Netflix called “Million Dollar Beach House.”
Mr. Serhant’s new business will crank out social-media content and multiple, dedicated short-form series for its YouTube channel, “Listed by Serhant,” based around his agents and listings. One series, provisionally called “3 in a Million,” will invite regular people into three listings and ask them to guess the price. Another, called “Meals in Mansions,” will be hosted by an agent at the firm who enjoys cooking and who will make meals in the kitchens of the firm’s high-end home listings.
Mr. Serhant, whose YouTube channel has one million subscribers, already produces his own YouTube videos weekly, putting together a mix of listing reveals, personal day-in-the-life style vlogs that showcase his family and personal life and business advice tutorials with titles like “How to OVERCOME self-doubt” and “How to SUCCEED in a VOLATILE market.” While these videos don’t directly sell his listings, Mr. Serhant said, they help him build a global following, which, in turn, gives his listings better exposure.
These tactics aren’t for everyone and some competitors snipe that Mr. Serhant is more interested in being famous himself than dedicating his time to his clients. Others said these stunts are more likely to attract voyeurs than actually result in deals, since ultrahigh-net-worth buyers aren’t likely to be shopping for multimillion-dollar properties on Instagram.
But Mr. Serhant argues that the numbers prove out his concept: His team at Nest Seekers did $1.4 billion in closed and in-contract sales last year, mostly in New York and in the Hamptons, making him one of the most successful agents in the country. He estimates that since he started in the business, he and his team have sold over $4 billion in property. Last year, they sold a $40 million house in Bridgehampton to a prominent executive who reached out to Mr. Serhant after finding him on YouTube, he said.
“If a listing video gets 10,000 views or a million views, that’s a big difference,” he said. “I tell clients, ‘I work incredibly hard to grow my brand for your benefit so I can put your listing in front of more eyeballs than anyone else in the business.’ ”
Mr. Serhant said many of his wealthy clients have secret accounts on Instagram that aren’t registered in their real names. One former client, so privacy-obsessed that his chauffeur-driven car had blacked-out windows, had an Instagram account and mentioned several of the properties he’d seen on Mr. Serhant’s account.
“Instagram isn’t a joke now,” Mr. Serhant said. “People will go to your Instagram to see who you are as a person before they pick up the phone. You don’t need a business card, you need a powerful social-media profile.”
Industry insiders said there is no doubt that the business is shifting even more online, a shift supercharged by the coronavirus pandemic. But they remain split on whether it is a good idea for the agent to be the star of the show.
“Buyers during Covid are being reprogrammed,” said Bradley Nelson, chief marketing officer at Sotheby’s International Realty. “Before they visit a property in person, they’re expecting a video tour.”
‘It’s an attention game. It’s not who has the better postcards, it’s about who can attract the most eyeballs.’
Ryan Serhant, real-estate agent
Mr. Nelson said his firm has seen “explosive growth” in video during the pandemic. The firm’s YouTube channel saw a 137% increase in the number of views, for instance. But for Sotheby’s, the content is less about the stunts and always glorifies the property over the agent, Mr. Nelson said.
“You have to ask yourself, who is this serving?” he said. “Is it serving the property or is it serving the person selling the property? With all due respect to both strategies, as a brand we have centered on the property being the star of the content we produce. It’s what we’re selling.”
Alexander Ali, the Los Angeles-based chief executive of Society Group, a marketing consulting firm for high-end real estate, said he finds that content tends to be more engaging when the agent does insert their own personality into it. His firm has even started a weekday Instagram live show called “Real Talk,” where agents, architects, developers and designers appear to discuss trends. Mr. Ali said the show has built such a following based on its entertainment value that his clients now have a built-in audience to which they can show their properties.
Tim Smith, a luxury agent in Orange County, Calif., who co-owns his own production company, said he has spent close to $50,000 on a single marketing video for a property, designed to be so entertaining that it spreads online quickly. He has personally appeared in some of them.
When he listed a $45 million Newport, Calif., home a couple of years ago, he used professional filmmakers, a string of social-media celebrities and the artists behind the 2010 party anthem “Teach Me How to Dougie” to create a rap video about the property, which unfolded like a regular music video until near the end, when the regular lyrics were swapped out for intel on the property. Mr. Smith personally rapped about the property’s “game room and a gym, two bars for your gin.”
The videos are designed to be “snackable” and “shareable,” said Mr. Smith, in the hope that they’ll reach buyers outside of the local community. Buyers from other markets are more likely to buy blockbuster listings and don’t get so bogged down in the dynamics of the local market, he said. Once Mr. Smith’s team sees a prospective buyer engage with their content, they start to retarget them online, showing them other listings or different marketing materials, he said.
These projects also have upside, Mr. Serhant said. With views skyrocketing, the agent said the media content his team produces for YouTube provides another revenue stream for the business since it can support advertising revenue. That is especially valuable right now, since the real-estate market in New York has taken a nosedive. His company will also continue to operate paid Serhant-branded educational programs in which agents across the world can enroll. The firm will also have a venture capital arm to invest in new business ideas, he said.
“All day everyday people yell at me on the street, ‘Serhant! The real estate guy!’ ” he said. “I’m a walking billboard for luxury real estate. It’s not easy to do, but it really does pay off.”